3.2.8 Entwistle’s Theory of Student Approaches to Learning

Figure 3.12 Learning to cook can be achieved at many different levels
Figure 3.12 Learning to cook can be achieved at many different levels

Noel Entwistle’s ideas are concerned with the ways in which individuals approach learning. They focus on how people go about learning a body of knowledge. This contrasts with community of practice theory, which is more interested in how groups of people together create knowledge or understanding, as the St Kildans did about “high-rise” egg collecting.

This might suggest that we are going back to where we started on this unit. You may recall that this starting point involved thinking about yourself as an individual learner. However, here we are encouraging you to think about how reflecting on a theory can help you understand your learning. We ask you to begin to assess its usefulness and personal relevance.

You may have heard of the term “learning styles.” Although learning styles are widely used in both education and at work, some approaches which use them have been criticized. If you want to find out more about this criticism, see the report Should We Be Using Learning Styles? (Coffield, et al., 2004). Reports like these argue that there is little evidence to back some of the claims made for learning styles. We have selected Entwistle’s theory, which has not been criticized in this way, because it is based on evidence that has been gathered over a number of years. We hope you will find it interesting and useful in extending your thinking about how you might use learning to achieve change.

Study Tip: Referencing

You will notice that the next part of the unit contains quite a few references, indicated by brackets containing something like “(Coffield, et al., 2004).” We do not have space to consider referencing in any detail in Learning to Learn. However, it is worth pointing out that the references you will notice within the text are intended to show where specific ideas or quotes have been taken from, in order that these ideas can be followed up in more detail by the reader, should they wish to do so. There are many different ways of formatting references and different institutions have different requirements. The referencing in Learning to Learn conforms to the “Harvard” system of referencing which requires that an in-text reference for a book should contain the following elements:

  • Author’s last name.
  • Date of publication.
  • Page number.

There are some variants to this format, for example where there is more than one author. Whatever the format, an in-text reference is used in conjunction with a list of references or a “bibliography” where the full information about texts referred to is provided. If you wish to learn more about referencing there are many useful websites giving information about the different referencing styles. A “Health Warning” About Groups Background to Entwistle’s theory